Allahabad HC confirms injunction against Thomson Reuters in SCC copyright infringement matter

Allahabad High Court: In an appeal filed by Thomson Reuters South Asia against the injunction granted by the District Judge, Lucknow on 29.3.2013 in favour of Eastern Book Company, a Division Bench of Sudhir Agarwal and Ravindra Nath Mishra-II, JJ. disposed of the appeal following the Supreme Court’s order in Relx India Pvt. v. Eastern Book Company, (2017) 1 SCC 1.

The Supreme Court had ordered thus:

The appellants will be at liberty to publish, sell and distribute the raw judgments of the Supreme Court of India and other Courts obtained from whichever source along with their own head-notes, editorial notes, paraphrasing, explanatory notes, etc. as laid down in Eastern Book Company v. D.B. Modak, (2008) 1 SCC 1.” [Relx India Pvt. Ltd. v. Eastern Book Company, (2017) 1 SCC 1.]

Further, the High Court also directed the Trial Court to expedite the hearing of the pending suit.

Rajat Vohra, Gantavya Chandra and Udit Mendiratta, Advs. appeared for the appellants  and Sudeep Seth, Adv. appeared for the Respondents. [Thomson Reuters South Asia Pvt. Ltd. v. Eastern Book Company, FAFO No. 627 of 2013, decided on 7.2.2017]

The Supreme Court in Eastern Book Company v. D.B. Modak, (2008) 1 SCC 1 had granted copyright protection to Supreme Court Cases (SCC) in the following manner:

This extract is taken from Eastern Book Company v. D.B. Modak, (2008) 1 SCC 1 at pages 114-15

“61. However, the inputs put in the original text by the appellants in (i) segregating the existing paragraphs in the original text by breaking them into separate paragraphs; (ii) adding internal paragraph numbering within a judgment after providing uniform paragraph numbering to the multiple judgments; and (iii) indicating in the judgment the Judges who have dissented or concurred by introducing the phrases like “concurring”, “partly concurring”, “partly dissenting”, “dissenting”, “supplementing”, “majority expressing no opinion”, etc., have to be viewed in a different light. The task of paragraph numbering and internal referencing requires skill and judgment in great measure. The editor who inserts para numbering must know how legal argumentation and legal discourse is conducted and how a judgment of a court of law must read. Often legal arguments or conclusions are either clubbed into one paragraph in the original judgment or parts of the same argument are given in separate paragraphs. It requires judgment and the capacity for discernment for determining whether to carve out a separate paragraph from an existing paragraph in the original judgment or to club together separate paragraphs in the original judgment of the Court. Setting of paragraphs by the appellants of their own in the judgment entailed the exercise of the brain work, reading and understanding of subject of disputes, different issues involved, statutory provisions applicable and interpretation of the same and then dividing them in different paragraphs so that chain of thoughts and process of statement of facts and the application of law relevant to the topic discussed is not disturbed, would require full understanding of the entire subject of the judgment. Making paragraphs in a judgment could not be called a mechanical process. It requires careful consideration, discernment and choice and thus it can be called as a work of an author. Creation of paragraphs would obviously require extensive reading, careful study of subject and the exercise of judgment to make paragraph which has dealt with particular aspect of the case, and separating intermixing of a different subject. Creation of paragraphs by separating them from the passage would require knowledge, sound judgment and legal skill. In our opinion, this exercise and creation thereof has a flavour of minimum amount of creativity.

62. The said principle would also apply when the editor has put an input whereby different Judges’ opinion has been shown to have been dissenting or partly dissenting or concurring, etc. It also requires reading of the whole judgment and understanding the questions involved and thereafter finding out whether the Judges have disagreed or have the dissenting opinion or they are partially disagreeing and partially agreeing to the view on a particular law point or even on facts. In these inputs put in by the appellants in the judgments reported in SCC, the appellants have a copyright and nobody is permitted to utilise the same.

63. For the reasons stated in the aforesaid discussion, the appeals are partly allowed. The High Court has already granted interim relief to the appellant-plaintiffs by directing that though the respondent-defendants shall be entitled to sell their CD-ROMS with the text of the judgments of the Supreme Court along with their own headnotes, editorial notes, if any, they should not in any way copy the headnotes of the appellant-plaintiffs; and that the respondent-defendants shall also not copy the footnotes and editorial notes appearing in the journal of the appellant-plaintiffs. It is further directed by us that the respondent-defendants shall not use the paragraphs made by the appellants in their copy-edited version for internal references and their editor’s judgment regarding the opinions expressed by the Judges by using phrases like “concurring”, “partly dissenting”, etc. on the basis of reported judgments in SCC. The judgment of the High Court is modified to the extent that in addition to the interim relief already granted by the High Court, we have granted the abovementioned additional relief to the appellants.”

Upon scrutiny of the judgments in the Westlaw database, elements as copyright protected by EBC v. D.B. Modhak case were found in the versions of judgments of the Supreme Court in Westlaw.

Eastern Book Company sued Thomson Reuters  for copyright infringement of its law report Supreme Court Cases and the District Judge, Lucknow confirmed the ad-interim injunction in these terms:

43. Accordingly, the application for temporary injunction deserves to be allowed in terms of the prayer made therein in the following manner:

“The application for temporary injunction moved by the plaintiffs is allowed and, during the pendency of the Suit, the defendants, their assigns and business franchisees, licencees, distributors, agents etc. are restrained from infringing the copyrights in the literary work of the plaintiffs in their law report “Supreme Court Cases” (SCC) and from selling, distributing or otherwise making available to the public, either as CD Roms or through their websites on the internet or by any other means, copies of its law report and data bases which infringe the copyrights of the plaintiffs in and to the law reports titled Supreme Court Cases (SCC).

The order dated 18-9-2012 passed by this Court, to the effect that the plaintiffs shall not publish ex parte order of temporary injunction in Newspapers, Print Media and Electronic Media, which has continuously been extended, is hereby vacated.”” [Eastern Book Company v. Thomson Reuters Corpn., RS No. 115/2012 dated March 29, 2013]

 

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